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Evacuation of Fort Sumter!

The administration and the country all called to endure a great mortification. Fort Sumter is to be evacuated, and left to the possession of the southern rebels! Every body has hoped for a different result. It was known that the policy of the new administration would be to retain our forts that we still held, and not to surrender them. And the burden which the people so generally supposed to have been exhibited by Maj. Anderson, has led to a universal hope and expectation that one of the first acts of the new administration would be to relieve him by sending him a re-enforcement of men and a supply of necessaries. Yet in face of all this, the cabinet has concluded to make no effort to this end, but simply to order the Major to leave the fort and make the best of his way to other safer quarters.

Of course, this step has not been taken without the pressure of an absolute necessity. It was repugnant we believe to every member of the cabinet and especially so to the President and Secretary Chase. But Gen. Scott and Gen. Wool both concur, not only in advising to this course but in declaring that it is the only course left by which it is possible to save the troops or fort either. To do this we can save the troops, though we lose the fort; to refuse, we lose both troops and fort. Such is their opinion, and the opinion of all military men. It must be the opinion of every one who will candidly weigh all the circumstances of the case. There is the fort, with sixty-four men, and provisions enough to last at longest fifteen or twenty days, when the garrison must starve or surrender. Even now they are out of fuel. The rebel defenses of the harbor below the fort are so strong and extensive, that nothing but a powerful fleet could enter the harbor. Any mercantile-built vessel would be shivered into splinters before she could get to Sumter; and even if she could reach there, she would be exposed tot he Moultrie guns while the troops debarked and she unladed; and the entrance to the fort having been so contracted by Maj. Anderson as to allow only one man at a time to enter, one can imagine the slaughter that would be made by the shot from Fort Moultrie before the re-enforcements could get under the shelter of Sumter's walls. An army of ten or twelve thousand men, landing below the defenses and attacking them in the rear, with a strong force of naval vessels in front, could no doubt open the way to the fort and place therein as many men and provisions as we pleased to put there; and could also demolish the entrenchments below the fort and secure easy access to it by water hereafter. But we have no army, and the President has no authority to raise one. At the last session of Congress, the House defeated a bill allowing him to accept of volunteers even. So he has no army and cannot raise one. But the navy! That is scattered all over the globe, and ships enough to force a passage and relieve the fort cannot be gathered and equipped for the service under two or three months, long before which, the garrison must starve or surrender. Such is the state of things as found by the administration on its first opening the books of office. It has been cunningly brought about by Mr. Buchanan and his beloved friends, the traitors whom he has loved and served better than he has loved and served his country. The only question left to decide was, whether to withdraw the men or to suffer them to starve. In either case the fort must go. It would perhaps be less humilliating to lose the fort without consent than with; but it would be inhuman. The cabinet has chosen the best course, undoubtedly but is has been at the extreme of a great sacrifice of feeling. The sacrifice will be appreciated by the people, when it is remembered that the necessity was not occasioned by their acts, but by the acts of Mr. Buchanan. Secretary Holt says that thirty days ago the fort could have been succored, and Mr. Buchanan was entreated to send succor, but he obstinately refused. This is corroborated by Gen. Scott. So far as the feasibility of the thing is concerned, every body who has kept a narrow watch of things there knows that the fort could have been re-enforced five or six weeks ago, just as well as not; and they know now that it cannot be short of a large armament and great battle. Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet had nothing to do with it then, and have not had till rendering succor became an impossibility. Mr. Buchanan, if not a fool, must have foreseen this. We believe he did foresee it; that he planned it, and executed it on purpose to embarrass his successor at the very threshold of his administration: and that he is now chuckling over the success of his treasonous plot with the southern rebels. If he is a sane man he ought to be tried for treason; if he is a fool he ought to be put under guardianship.

"Independent of the Philadelphia North American says:

"Mr. Holt has not hesitated to say that Fort Sumter could have been re-enforced thirty days ago, and without involving a collision. Perfect arrangements had been made for that purpose, under the direct superintentendence of Gen. Scott, but the movement was arrested by the direct interference of the late President, just as he sought to countermand the order for the sailing of the Star of the West, and did send the Brooklyn to intercept her at Charleston. His negotiations with the commissioners from South Carolina, and his whole conduct after the ordinance of accession passed, clearly showed a design on his part to postpone a collision until after the 4th of March, and to dispose of the army and navy in such a manner as to render it almost inevitable when Mr. Lincoln came into power. Mr. Holt very frankly declares that the new administration cannot be held answerable for a state of facts with which it had no concern whatever. It has no means of extrication and no choice but to make war with a demoralized and inadequate array, or to withdraw the soldiers.

A Washington Correspondent of the N. Y. Tribune, says--

Evidence is rapidly accumulating at the War Department going to show that Major Anderson has been playing a deep game for three months, and one which has deceived his military superiors. For many weeks the steady tenor of his daily dispatches has been, "Send no re-enforcements or supplies--I need neither troops nor provisions, therefore, let me alone." Suddenly--the moment that Mr. Lincoln takes the reins of government-- the tune changes, and now Anderson cries, "Send me supplies, or it will be impossible to defend the fort." Why this sudden change? Was not Major Anderson perfectly aware six weeks ago that the batteries which were being erected at every commanding point in Charleston harbor would soon render a re-enforcement impossible? If so, why did he not complain of the military works which were intended to compass his destruction and warn his government in time? It is stated on very good authority that he did no such thing, and that Mr. Holt admits at least an apparent discrepancy between Anderson's former and his later dispatches. The American people certainly will not condemn a man unheard, and last of all men Maj. Anderson, but he will, if he leaves Fort Sumter, need to clean up some of these misty points. It is suspected in some quarters that Mr. Buchanan, upon his own responsibility, sent a secret agent to Fort Sumter more than eight weeks ago advising Anderson to take precisely this course he has done, fully aware that the result would be the loss of the fortress. His justification of the act would be that a bloody conflict would therefore be avoided and civil war averted. This pretext has served him for all his traitorous and imbecile acts, and if can be made to do duty once more to cover up the disgrace consequent upon the fall of Sumter.

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When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated president in March, 1861, he faced a serious problem: South Carolina had seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, the first state to do so. Fort Sumter stood on an island in the middle of Charleston harbor and was a visible symbol of federal authority. Lame-duck president James Buchanan felt that it was unconstitutional to coerce states to stay in the union (although he also felt secession was unconstitutional). As a result he did nothing when an unarmed supply vessel, the Star of the West, was fired upon by Confederate gunners. Consequently, the fort was short of supplies. Abraham Lincoln pledged in his inaugural address delivered March 4 that he would "hold, occupy and possess" any federal installations in the south. This article was printed March 18, just days after the inaugural address. On March 5, Major Robert Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter, sent the president a message saying he had only forty days supply. The dilemma of what to do about the fort consumed the president for weeks, a debate that spilled into the press. At the end of March Lincoln decided, against his cabinet's advise, to attempt to supply the fort and he sent the governor of South Carolina a note informing him. The governor had already been authorized to resist this by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. On April 12, before the ships could arrive, the governor authorized the first guns to fire upon the fort, starting the Civil War.


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"Evacuation of Fort Sumter!"

publisher   Greenfield Gazette and Courier
date   Mar 18, 1861
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
height   24.0"
width   2.5"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L02.120

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See Also...

"Sundry Items"- military figures for states

"Southern and War Items"

"The Traitor's Confederacy"

Admiral Francis John Higginson (1843-1931)

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